Changing Times A Slave Insurrection

In 1808 the colony was shaken by an event that was in some ways more a demonstration by slaves than an uprising. The main instigators were two passing Irish sailors, James Hooper and Michael Kelly, and two slaves, Abraham and Louis. They assembled slaves from the farms for a march to Cape Town. They planned to gather town slaves and establish a new government that would decree emancipation. About 300 slaves and some Khoikhoi servants from Koeberg and Tygerberg farms defied the authority of their masters and joined the march to Cape Town. As Abraham told a slave woman: ‘Tomorrow the troop [sic] will hoist a red flag and fight itself free, and then the slave women will all be able to say “Jij” [“you” instead of “thou”] to their mistresses.’

The judge in the court case that followed called this form of address so ‘disrespectful in the Dutch language’ that Abraham, in his view, could use it only in a context of resistance and revolt. The revolt was swiftly quashed and the government sent most of the slaves back to their masters. James Hooper, Abraham and three other slaves were executed.

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